Autechre
Exai


4.5
superb

Review

by Adash USER (43 Reviews)
February 8th, 2013 | 1102 replies


Release Date: 03/04/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "We use anything, man. I don't have favourites, and I don't want habits either."

Following this modus operandi, Autechre, perhaps more than any of their musical brethren, successfully tread the middle ground between ancient and modern, analogue and digital, composition and improvisation. Over the course of a generation they’ve explored each of these fecund landscapes to the horizon and beyond, all the while manipulating music into contractions that, whilst quite amazingly uncomfortable, never cease to amaze with their richness and variety. And, to their everlasting credit, Sean and Rob have never been stingy with their bounty; that some of their work divides opinion so sharply is testament to their adventurous, uncompromising nature (and perhaps their willingness to imbue machines with compositional powers).

From the sodden squelches of T ess xi to the gargantuan drifting ambience of album highlight bladelores, organic sounds prevails throughout; a far cry from the cold robotics that characterise a sizeable portion of their discography. The usual suspects are all here; creeping, mutated arpeggios and enormously fat synths being propelled along by rumbling claptrap rhythms that occasionally require a calculator to deconstruct. An extraordinarily diverse palette of sounds (garnered no doubt from the fertile fields of Max MSP) provide a range so wide the two hour running time starts making a little more sense; all these sounds need time to arrive, to expand, to grow and to die. Regardless if tones swell and fade, sparkle or explode; each is given its own breathing space, allowed to play out and die out in a process that, given the length of the album, seemingly goes on ad infinitum. A myriad of twisted metal parts are forced together into skeletal contraptions underpinning melodies that squirm, crawl, bound and soar through the ether, puzzling, pleasing and astounding in equal measure. Large chunks of the record feature the stunningly awkward drum programming that has become a staple part of the Autechre sound, one that perhaps more than anything ensures they remain far out in the leftfield of contemporary electronic music.

If one has to compare Exai with anything in recent memory, The Seer, funnily enough, forms the natural parallel. Whilst both Autechre and Swans stand as polar opposites to each other musically (the calculating, intellectual Apollinian versus the ecstatic, physical Dionysian) both demand great attention from the listener before offering any reward in return; as artists they craft enormous colossi of sound that require blind faith as much as rational attention. And both have finally delivered creations that are the awesome culmination of their respective artistic visions.

Faith nonewithstanding, it is not therefore surprising that Exai is a purely rational creature at heart; emotion inducing melodies remaining far and few between and when feelings arise, they are invariably disturbingly dreamlike. Yet whilst this album lacks the instantly captivating melodies that supplied tracks like Treale with such a jaw dropping dénouement, it makes up for in supremely intelligent instrumentation. It is precisely here that Autechre outdo themselves. Enormously satisfying moments abound, provided one listens carefully enough; the interplay of lead lines surrounding the breakdown of 1 1 is never fails to impress, whilst the all out carnage of spl 9 makes for a stunning mind*** of epic proportions. After a career of countless experiments, some masterful, others less so, it is with this work that the duo hit the nail on head with stunning force and aplomb.

That said, there is no doubt that this is an immensely difficult listen; all the more so since the music is simultaneously painfully obvious and devastatingly subtle. This can be infuriating, but hell, doesn’t all great art overflow with contradictions? As for the answer to the inevitable question; could it be downsized to make its digestion a slightly more manageable task? Possibly. But then Samson got his hair cut, and looked what happened to him. No, Exai is far better off unleashed and unrestrained, unapologetic in its grandeur.

Onanites seeking instant gratification: look elsewhere.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Adash
February 8th 2013


1356 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Purchase here

http://www.autechre.ws/exai/

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
February 8th 2013


6487 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That was quick as shit!

Phenomenal writeup, as usual my man. The second and fourth paragraph are spot-on, and even the Swans comparison kinda makes sense.

Digging: Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers

oltnabrick
February 8th 2013


31113 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this album sounds awesome, im gonna check it out because i like their other stuff

Adash
February 8th 2013


1356 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Clercqie cat; Thank you. It's good to be back reviewing, trust Autechre to knock sudden inspirations into me. I've always viewed AE and Swans (my favourite artists) as opposites that attract in strange and beautiful ways

Zettel
February 8th 2013


599 Comments


I do not know how you were able to pull this off, I mean, I have not been able to finish the whole album, let alone to form a solid opinion on it. Your musical understanding is deep and unnatural, but I am glad you chose this album for a comeback. Hell, yes!

I am gonna be listening to it intensively until my brain bleeds. If this album is not good enough to be in my year end list, there is something wrong with the world.

Zettel
February 8th 2013


599 Comments


I cannot get past the second track irlite (get 0). I lost myself in it, and have to remind myself that it is only one track. This is a cliché, but Autechre are on a class of their own. No matter what they do, they do it like nobody else.

Adash
February 8th 2013


1356 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Wagwan Zettel.

On the first listen, I understood nothing. On the second, I frowned. On the third, I smiled. My long and beautiful relationship with this album begins here

Zettel
February 8th 2013


599 Comments


"...this is an immensely difficult listen; all the more so since the music is simultaneously painfully obvious and devastatingly subtle.".

You nailed everything with that sentence. It is really an Autechre album from top to bottom, and yet the differences are in the smallest of details. The more familiar one is with their work, it becomes the clearest their evolution. They are indeed moving forward, but it does not seem so on the surface. I could be wrong on this, but they are taking the Quaristice approach but applying it through the Oversteps sound, turning it into something familiar and new at the same time. It is something fantastic.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
February 8th 2013


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4 | Sound Off

this is pretty good, i remember other autechre albums being better but i havent listened to them in
like 6 years so there you go, ill up my rating a bit on second listen

Zettel
February 8th 2013


599 Comments


"On the first listen, I understood nothing. On the second, I frowned. On the third, I smiled. My long and beautiful relationship with this album begins here"


Wait, you have already spent six hours on this? I am jealous, to tell the truth. I have been listening to this only in bits. Will have to wait until the weekend for several full dedicated listens. Regarding music, there is very little that I enjoy more than exploring an Autechre record.

Adash
February 8th 2013


1356 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

A review should be able to be condensed to one sentence; you found it : ]

As for listening, twice on my good speakers at home, and once wandering the forests. This review, however, only just scratches the surface of this album. People could write books about Autechre, books worth reading.

Calc
February 8th 2013


12252 Comments


"That was quick as shit!" [2]

will prolly get this

Adash
February 8th 2013


1356 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This, for me, solely in musical terms, might be their most confounding release since Confield. It's their last thirteen years condensed, ironically enough, into something massive

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
February 8th 2013


18728 Comments


this album sounds like an overview of all the directions theyve gone in their discography up to this
point and it rules

bladelores might just be the best track theyve ever recorded

Digging: Monolake - Hong Kong

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
February 8th 2013


18728 Comments


btw for all you US people you can preorder the 4xLP on amazon for 35$ shipped instead of like $67 from the bleep site

mindleviticus
February 8th 2013


8293 Comments


i'm still trying to digest this, so much material to handle. Awesome review, Adash! Glad to have ya back!

mindleviticus
February 8th 2013


8293 Comments


I love how they take every element from all of their albums and compile it on here

Adash
February 8th 2013


1356 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Merci beaucoup, and good luck navigating through the giant murkwood that is this album

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 8th 2013


23909 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

didnt love this on first listen but I see that I'm not alone. will read this review when I'm not rushing to work, but I'm sure it's great. I hope I end up liking this album a bit more too.

Digging: RATKING - So It Goes

lou1000
February 8th 2013


993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

irlite (get 0) is probably my favourite at the moment, great track.

Digging: Dirty Beaches - Stateless



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